BEERG: In UK, Strict Employee Monitoring in Financial Sector Moves Home

October 16, 2020

As employee monitoring comes under scrutiny in the EU, the UK's financial sector regulator has warned financial services firms that staff who are working from home should be monitored as intensely as those who are back at their desks.

The UK Financial Conduct Authority is grappling with an unprecedented shift to remote working by the companies it supervises as banks, insurers, and asset managers seek to protect their staff from the coronavirus.

Traders and bankers normally work in strictly controlled offices, where phone lines are recorded and computer use is monitored to prevent market abuse.  In March, firms rushed to replicate the same scrutiny on staff who began working remotely.

Julia Hoggett, the regulator’s director of market oversight, said this week that there should be no difference in surveillance between different staffing arrangements.  “While scenarios emerged early in the pandemic where the usual levels of surveillance were not possible,” she said, “our experience suggests firms have now overcome these challenges.  Our expectation is that going forward office and working-from-home arrangements should be equivalent.”

Recently, the Data Protection Authority of Hamburg announced a record-setting fine of €35.2m (U.S. $41.3m) on H&M for "extensive recording of details about [employees’] private lives" in violation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.  While it appears the UK will soon leave the jurisdiction of the EU and therefore such scrutiny under the GDPR, the FCA’s position highlights the tension between employee privacy and certain requirements by regulators. 

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